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Exams to be remodelled

A Downing Street think tank of the great and the good in industry, education and government has been asked to create a new blueprint for Britain's professional qualifications. The Council for Excellence in Management was set up last month at a breakfast meeting at Number 11, organised by Chancellor Gordon Brown and chaired by industrialist Sir Anthony Cleaver, chair of AEA Technology.

It is charged with giving coherence to the range of qualifications from higher level National Vocational Qualifications to the plethora of postgraduate business studies, which both Mr Brown and Tony Blair believe have so far escaped adequate scrutiny.

The urgency of the task - Downing Street wants recommendations by the end of the year - reflects the Government's concern over the lack of management training and development in the 1.5 million small to medium enterprises that are the backbone of British industry.

Colleges have been given a high profile on the council. Chris Hughes, the chief executive of the Further Education Development Agency, was at the breakfast seminar. His agency has been asked to assist in the essential research programmes o the council.That body was conceived as having overarching responsibility for encouraging higher standards in management in both the public and private sectors. The Treasury, Department for Education and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry were instrumental in setting it up.

The Government's hope is that it will encourage greater public-private co-operation in management development, leading to more effective partnerships in industry and commerce initiatives.

Inclusion of the colleges in the work of the council indicates the level of confidence the Cabinet has in the college sector to respond to demands and develop more effective management styles since in 1992 when they moved out of local-authority control. Colleges, along with the University for Industry, will also be expected to assist in the development of new higher-level management education programmes for small businesses.

Chris Hughes said: "At the moment too much management education and training is focused on what is learnt rather than on developing a capacity to learn. This is one area that needs rethinking."

Full reports, pages 20-22

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